How Does It Compare?

We’re comparing grinder to grinder today—but we made this Crew Comparison more interesting by matching the Breville Smart Grinder Pro with the grinder in the Breville Barista Express. We actually get this question a lot: How’s the grinder in the Barista Express compared to a standalone grinder? For starters, most built-in grinders are designed specifically for that machine, which is true for the Barista Express. This semi-automatic comes equipped with pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters that’s perfect for beginner to experienced baristas, who want to practice pulling espresso shots. We took the Barista Express’ grinder for a spin with both portafilters and found it could easily be dialed in for different beans, and if you got lazy with the grind, the pressurized basket was capable of compensating and making a delicious shot.

The Breville Barista Express features a conical burr grinder that fine-tuned for espresso. The Breville Barista Express features a conical burr grinder that fine-tuned for espresso.

In comparison, the Smart Grinder Pro has the capacity to work with other brewers. You could dial it in for coarse French press or fine espresso—extremely fine too. If you’re looking to use your grinder for different brewers, the intuitive digital display on the Smart Grinder Pro makes it easier to dial in. Since it’s designed to use with many brewers, Breville included a grind container with a lid and two portafilter holders for your convenience. That said, both of these machines are made by Breville—who, we might add, consistently includes user-friendly features throughout their line-up—so we took each machine home for a closer look.

The Breville Smart Grinder Pro features intuitive and programmable settings that makes getting coffee you love a breeze. The Breville Smart Grinder Pro features intuitive and programmable settings that makes getting coffee you love a breeze.

Grind

The Breville Smart Grinder Pro features a manual turn dial to set the “grind size” from one to 60 (60 being the coarsest). The 40mm stainless steel conical burrs are designed to create even particles and fewer fines. Just for fun, we decided to see how long it would take to grind up enough grounds for 12 cups of coffee at the coarsest setting (60 grind size). We clocked it in at 38.2 seconds! Fortunately, the big 16-ounce bean hopper had plenty of beans to accommodate 12 cups worth of grounds.

Bonus: The Smart Grinder Pro has an additional 10 adjustment located on the top of the burr. However, these are intended to extend the life of your machine and not to pull right out of the box and adjust down to the finest setting. Check out this video with Phil McKnight from Breville for a thorough explanation.

To access the burrs, simply unlock the removable hopper and make the adjustments. To access the burrs, simply unlock the removable hopper and make the adjustments.

The Breville Barista Express is naturally going to be different. It’s designed for espresso so the coarse to fine range is limited. We’ve done this before on Ask Gail and thought you could maybe get a pour over grind out of the Barista Express, but nothing close enough to a French press. We still checked out the burrs and found they were conical stainless steel like the Smart Grinder Pro! The 8-ounce bean hopper is half the size as the Pro, but hey, we’re working with smaller quantities when it comes to espresso.

The Barista Express has an 8-ounce bean hopper. The Barista Express has an 8-ounce bean hopper.

Grade

We weren’t kidding about Breville’s user-friendly features. The Breville Smart Grinder Pro display is marked with brew methods (press to espresso) to help indicate where your grind setting might be. On top of that, it has three feature on the front: grind amount, shots/cups and start/pause (to clarify, the grind amount is based on a timed dosage, something we see in a lot of grinders). Those are your basic settings for programming your grind, but what’s cool about the Pro is the interaction of each setting. When we’re within the press to drip range, we have up to 12 cups that we can program using the grind amount, which conveniently also says Program under the dial. You only need to turn the knob to the time you want and it’s programmed—voila! Move the grind size on over to espresso and cups turns into shots, which we can set from one to 8. Of course, those shots/cups amounts don’t necessary mean you’ll get one cup since the amount will be determined by the time you have set to grind.

The Pro comes equipped with two differently sized portafilter holders and a 12-cup container. The Pro comes equipped with two differently sized portafilter holders and a 12-cup container.

So, how does the Barista Express match up? Since it’s designed for espresso, it has two programmable filter sizes: single and double. It features the same timed grind amount but without the digital display. The less to more measurements are useful enough, albeit, not as fancy or convenient as the Smart Grinder Pro. The same can be said for the Barista Express’ grinder size dial, which is located off to the side—you’re going to have to peak over to make adjustments. Like we mentioned earlier, the coarsest setting is still within an espresso range—possibly for drip but not other brew methods.

The Barista Express grinder is designed to create grounds for espresso. The Barista Express grinder is designed to create grounds for espresso.

Glamour

We rave about Breville’s extra features and it’s no exception with the Breville Smart Grinder Pro and Breville Barista Express. In both, Breville included an activation switch behind the container/portafilter to enjoy hands-free grinding or the option to manually dose. And, of course, the accessories: The Smart Grinder Pro comes with two portafilter holders for 50-54mm and 58mm portafilters, and a container—perfect for a wide variety of brewers. Since the Barista Express’ grinder is designed for espresso, the built-in portafilter is all we need to support our caffeine needs. Both include a removable bean hopper, for those of us who change out our beans.

The Smart Grinder Pro features a user-friendly digital display to make dialing in your grind a breeze. The Smart Grinder Pro features a user-friendly digital display to make dialing in your grind incredibly easy.

The most noticeable style difference is the Smart Grinder Pro’s digital interface. The beautiful backlight display makes it convenient to dial-in different grind settings and, frankly, if you’re going from French press to espresso, the stepped grinder and markers are ideal. On top of the ease-of-use, this smart grinder is a grammar nerd—yeah, you read that right. If you adjust the Pro from one cup to five cups, it corrects the word “cup” from singular to plural—it’s a Smart Grinder Pro, after all.

Conclusion

By now, you probably know which machine is right for you. Are you looking to brew more than espresso? Then the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is the machine for you. The magic of the Breville Barista Express is that convenience of a built-in grinder ready to produce fresh grounds that can be brewed right away. That freshness is what espresso drinkers desire. The Smart Grinder Pro handles espresso, too, and would pair perfectly with the Breville Dual Boiler or other machines without a built-in grinder. But what makes the Pro a Pro is the wide range of grind settings, so you can enjoy good ole French press too. If you’re interested in learning more about these grinders, check out the links below:

Update To The Update: Breville Adjustable Burr video
Ask Gail: Using The Barista Express Grinder For French Press